Exterior Staining with Sansin SDF Enviro Stain - A Review.

This is not an extensive review of Sansin Stain as much as it is the sharing of our experience with the Sansin SDF product. We used Sansin Stain before but never as much as we did last year.
Exterior staining in cold climates is challenging and most exterior painters in Toronto avoid taking the risk. The winters are long and cold and the summers short and humid. Staining decks and wood structures under these conditions is not ideal. Manufacturers don’t want you staining in the sun or during humid conditions. They also caution about rain 48 hours before and 24 hours after staining. To make it even worse, a busy contractor must incorporate these ideal conditions into a packed summer schedule.

Staining Project – Board & batten house in Stoufville

Last September (2018) we had an opportunity to stain the exterior of a beautiful home just north of Musselman’s Lake. Musselman’s Lake is located 6 km north of the town of Stouffville, and is part of the Greater Toronto Area. We do offer residential painting services to the Stouffville demographic and occasionally market to the area. The customer found us and contacted us through Facebook:

Customer: What services do you offer? Do you paint wood? It’s board & batten
Ecopainting: Yes we do. Where are you located?
Customer: We are in Stouffville. I am talking about the exterior of the house, its wood.
Ecopainting: Yes, we do that. It can be stained with translucent or solid stain or it can be painted. If painted, it requires a lot of stain primer to stop the wood tanning and knots of the wood from bleeding through. It also depends on it’s condition and the look that you like to achieve. Would you like us to see it and provide you an estimate?

Home before Sansin

The customer finally hired Ecopainting for the project and after a long discussion about product and availability we decided to use Sansin SDF Enviro Stain. The colours were Monterrey red 14 for the walkway bridge and balcony and Chesapeake 67 for the main body of the house.

What Makes Sansin SDF Enviro Stain Different?

Sansin SDF is a product for log homes, fences, siding and decks. It’s a one coat formula that repels water, while allowing water vapor to escape. It’s a very thin waterbourne alkyd that penetrates wood better than acrylic and almost as well as oil. Because acrylic stains rely on their adhesion properties, they form a film that eventually peels off. The molecular size of the Sansin resins and oils is very small and deeply penetrate the wood. Being similar to the old oil stains, the stain does not form a film and as a result fades without peeling.

What makes the Sansin formula better than the old alkyds?

  • Being waterbourne, it is much easier to use and wash from the painter’s hands and tools.
  • It creates fewer environmental toxins like VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs contribute to smog and hurt the ozone layer.
  • Sansin does not use universal colourants. Their proprietary colourants are created by using finely ground pigments that penetrate into the wood.

Can it be applied to wood with high moisture content?

According to the manufacturer, yes!
Thanks to SDF’s unique water-borne technology, it can be applied to wood even with high moisture content – SDF lets wood “breathe”, preventing moisture from getting trapped inside the logs and causing decay. Sansin SDF will not crack, peel, or blister”
The hydrophilic qualities of this product can be a game changer for contractors dealing with short and humid summers.

Was Sansin Stain Easy to Find and Apply?

Painters applying Sansin SDF Stain

After going back and forth between Benjamin Moore’s Arborcoat and Sikkens products, we recommended Sansin Stain. We thought it was a good idea for two reasons. First, it was late in the summer and humidity was a factor, especially in the morning. The other reason was mostly environmental. The home was right in the woods and the thought of using flammable, solvent based coatings did not seem right.

Choosing Stain Colours

Since there were no Sansin dealers in the north east of the GTA, finding and choosing colours proved to be a challenge. There were samples in their website and brochures but nothing beats the accuracy of seeing painted sample. Primetime paints in Toronto is one of the dealers and was very helpful with the entire process. After the customer narrowed their choice to a handful of colours, Primetime ordered sample pots from the manufacturer. To our surprise, the sample pots were delivered straight to the customer’s home and within a few days we had the colour choices. We ordered all the stain from Primetime Paints and they were reliable as always.  

The Prep and the Staining

The customer did some power washing previously, so we only had to wash part of the home, the bridge and the balcony. Since the colour for the balcony, columns and walkway was fairly transparent, we used a brightening liquid. Brighteners are specialty wood cleaners that remove the graying fibers and literally “brighten” the wood before staining. We sanded the surfaces with orbital sanders using 60-80 grit sandpaper and after some dusting we were all set to go!

One coat application of stain on the bridgeThe first thing you notice when you open the can is that it looks very runny and watery (even for a stain). It’s a good idea to stir it very well before and often during the application. Despite the thin consistency, the product feels very rich and oily on the surface. Chesapeake 67 is a dark colour and very rich in pigment. Like traditional oil based stains, it is recommended that you saturate the surfaces with the product to help with the penetration. This eliminates “lap marks” because all surfaces have the same absorption. In horizontal surfaces it’s a good idea to wipe any excess stain.
The manufacturer has some helpful videos and resources on how to use their products.

Sansin SDF is a one coat application but you can apply a “wet” second coat if you need it. Wet coat means applying another coat before the first coat dries. We did use a second coat on some of the panels, to help with hiding, since the colour is very saturated with pigment.

Would We Use Sansin SDF Again? Our Conclusion.

  • The product was easy to apply by brush and easy to wash from our tools and brushes.
  • It penetrated the surfaces well and that bodes well for durability.
  • It stayed wet longer than acrylic stains but resisted the rain the next day.
  • It was pleasant to work with and the smell did not give us headaches.
  • The customer loved the colours and the home delivery of the sample pots.
  • It can be applied even if the wood has some internal humidity.

This home looks amazing with Sansin SDF Envirostain

To a painting contractor in the Greater Toronto Area, Sansin SDF makes a lot of sense. Even though expensive (CAD $82.26 /1 GALLON), this stain allows you to take on more projects. To Ecopainting, Sansin wood coatings are environmentally responsible alternatives to solvent based products.
We are looking forward to specifying and using them for our deck staining projects this summer.

20 thoughts on “Exterior Staining with Sansin Stain”

  1. Sansin is a really great stain. Amazing actually. One tip. I used granular oxalyic acid in a water solution to brighten the cedar deck boards after sanding the garbage solid stain that lasted 18 months. The oxalyic acid did a fantastic brightening job and the stain went on like silk. A year in after a hard winter and the deck looks like I stained it yesterday. Not one flake and it is gorgeous. You have to get the cedar sanded thoroughly so as with all painting preparation is the back breaking part.

    • Thank you for your prep suggestion and sharing your experience John. It’s good to know that it looked almost new after a hard winter. We are happy to spec this stain again and use it when the next opportunity comes up.

    • Thank you for this! I am about to commit to a full cedar front entrance,back deck and half siding in a few weeks and I bought 7 gallons of Sansin SDF. My pharmacy sold me the biggest bottle of oxalic acid a few months ago for another project I was working on and I have so much of it, I will use it to take some of the sun bleaching out of the cedar.

  2. I used their DEC formula for my PT deck in July of 2015. The deck faces SouthWest and gets a ton of exposure to all of the elements. This summer it will need a re-coat. Incredible. I have had various contractors come through on various projects and ask about what is on the deck. The key is definitely the prep. It took my a long time to carefully sand and wash the deck properly before application. The nice thing, is now I just need to do a light wash and do one-coat.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience with Sansin. I have had good luck with Sikkens in the past but with the change in formulation of many satins because of regulations, a paint supply store told me many manufacturers are having trouble getting stain to last. Last year I tried Home Hardware’s Beauti-tone wood Shield Acrylic-Alkyd Semi-Transparent and this spring it is already peeling. The deck was stripped, but not sanded last year and I had good dry weather for properly preparing and staining. I wont be trying their stain again. I would be interested to know how the finish has stood up on the home in Stoufville?

    • Thanks Brian, we had good luck with the Sikkens products before the reformulations as well. We did go back to the house in Stouffville. The main work (body) is looking perfect. The deck floor is peeling or showing signs that it would in some areas. We are taking care of that. I am not sure I can blame the product 100 percent for that It was done in September (the customer needed it done for sale purposes). The surfaces looked dry and there was this hydrophylic claim. Also the home was surrounded by forests and greenery. The home is not sold yet, so at the moment we sanded the problem areas down to bare wood and will not apply stain until a few consecutive dry days.

    • I think they are both okay with proper prep and manufacturer instructions. If penetration to new surfaces is needed Sansin DEC would be better. Just make sure to power sand the surface with at least 80 grit sandpaper and clean it. Maybe even use 60 grit. Allow for a day without direct sunlight or moisture.

  4. Nice project, looks great. It must have taken some time to complete.
    I’m considering this product (DEC based on your above comment) for a new cedar deck project we’re doing. How do you think it compares to Thompsons Waterseal products or Timber Oils? There seem to be a lot of products on the market but it boils down to a stain/sealer or an oil (tinted or clear).

    • The new Australian Timber Oil is also a hybrid now, if I am not mistaken and we don’t have much experience with Thompson’s products. I think the DEC line is a good one but make sure to avoid moisture and power sand the surface with at least 80 grit sandpaper. Good luck!

  5. Now one winter later, I’m interested in the results of the above.
    I too am in a dilemma btwn timber oils and am considering Sansin DEC.

    My situation:
    South facing suburban 620 sq ft L-shaped cedar deck in Ottawa built in 2016 which sees the extremes of heat and cold , freeze and thaw. In prep, it was weathered it first few months, then initially stained with CABOT Natural (shredded and peeled after 1 yr) so re-prepped by pressure wash and hand sanding. Applied Thompson’s Timber Oil last year – but as an oil attracts (and more uniquely retains) dirt like nothing else I’ve seen. This spring, some bare spots to bare wood – pressure washed all off with a surface cleaner attachment….and going to sand again for a new coat of “something” that will last more than 1 year. Am considering Sansin Dec but concerned about penetration/adherance and longevity.

    Would you have any comment on Sansin Dec based on your situation above?

    • Hi James, because of our current situation we don’t know exactly when we get back to work and if we see results a year later. If you have to stain it this summer and use a penetrating oil product, we did have some good results with Sikkens SRD. They should still have the alkyd formula available but two years is the best you can expect. We would love to know our long term experience with Sansin Dec but we don’t personally have that yet. Good luck!

      • My go-to has been Sikkens SRD for years. Today I just got four courts of Sansin SDF to provide samples for my customers.

        I stumbled across your article George when I was searching for Dec reviews. Just came from a customer’s that had previously used Dec and I have to say it was in horrible shape. Needless to say I got a little nervous since I’ve been recommending Sansin as the environmentally friendly alternative.

        Glad to see you’ve given SDF a thumbs up and allayed some of my fears. Hope to log a few five-star reviews with this product and comfortably recommend it with first-hand experience.

        Thanks for your review and commitment to the profession.

        • Thank you. As you already know, the main causes of failure are lack of preparation and environmental conditions for any coating. Following the manufacturer’s recommendations perfectly is a good start. The Sikkens SRD was an easy product to use because it just faded away and did not peel. The newer acrylic coatings dry faster and don’t penetrate as much so they rely on adhesion technology.

  6. This is Great. Question: is it necessary to use the SDF on the backside of the siding? I am using it for a board and batten similar to the project here, but have heard both sides of “back-priming”. Some say leave the back side of the plywood siding uncoated so it can breathe, others say seal it with the SDF to prevent mold and rot. Opinion on what’s best?

  7. Great article, advice and comments. Last summer (2020) I made 2 Muskoka chairs and a side table from pine. Sanded to 120 grit and applied one generous coat of SanSin SDF cedar. Next day I light sanded with 150 grit to take off the raised fibers and applied a light second coat. The result is beautiful. I’m amazed ar how well the stain repels the rain. Note: I did store the chairs inside during the winter. I highly recommend SanSin products. Bought mine at Clearview Wood Products in Lindsay. Great people!


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